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Jack Chipman

In the Old Days:
Windward Avenue

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the Lagoon

Miniature Railroad

Market Street

Mecca Buffet

Scenic Railway

1921 Amusements

Cabrillo Ship Cafe'

Venice Pier

Bath House or Plunge

Beach

Auditorium

Aquarium

Chris Burden

Unpainting the Town:
lost murals

Helen K. Garber photos

Jeff Verges

Steven Ehrlich

Lance Diskan

Art at the Rose Cafe'

New Venice Sign

Robbie Conal

Venice-based Art

Ferus Gallery

Mario Barrios

Gary Steinborn

Earl Newman

St. Charles Mural

Spoons of Venice

Rena Small

 

 

 

Avid Brickman

a Venice Boyhood

I currently live in Portland Oregon, I'm 71 and in the world I am a portrait photographer, ...." artbyavid.com"........around 66 odd years ago it all started in Venice, California, I love thinkin and daydreaming about those years.

I was born Dec 12th 1935, in Hollywood, California, at around 5:25 in the morning, I chose two Russian Jewish immigrant parents . They were an odd couple, I was told they had an arranged marriage, which seemed odd since my father was in his thirties and my mother in her late twenties. I was born in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, which is now the Scientology Headquarters! Turns out I had the same birthday as Frank Sinatra, And Woody Allen and I were born on the same day, same year, I'm sure he'd feel fortunate to know this!..................... we were both short Jewish guys, ..he grew up in the Bronx and my parents lived in the Bronx....and when I was young before I knew he existed I wanted to be a comedian , actually I've always been a comedian , just never got paid for it!................How can ya not see the humor in this bizarre world.............

My father was a house painter, a trade I believe he learned from his father.

I lived in Venice from 1940 to around 1952, got there at age 5, lived on Brooks Ave right off trolleyway, which I think is now Pacific Ave.

When I was a kid there were trams that ran on ocean front, the boardwalk, from Windward Ave to Ocean Park, they were odd little conveyances, they held around - 25 people, cost a nickel. I think they had a model "A" a ford 4 cylinder engine, at least that's what it sounded like.

All us kids would "hop the tram", this was a criminal act in which u would duck down, behind the tram, run up to the rear platform, jump on, out of the drivers sight and hang on t till u reached ur preferred location, then u'd jump off. This was pretty much during the war years and I remember soldiers n sailors, with their girlfriends next to them on the rear of the trams , who would cheer us on , as we were running to hop on.

It was a sleepy little beach town then, we had the "Venice Rats", a really tough gang, mostly Chicanos, Vito, Chimaco, Bobby Johnson , can't remember the rest of them, about ten guys. I , a tiny, 12 year old Jewish kid, used ta follow them on a Friday night to the Ocean Park pier where they would march up the Ocean Park pier, find some rich UCLA lookin guys, then Vito, who was about 5'2" tall would walk up to the group of the UCLA lookin guys, he'd pick out a guy who was about a foot taller than him, he would stand right in front of the guy, everyone watchin, he would put his hand, flat on the top of his head and move it forward where it would arrive at the adams apple of the guy in front of him, he was showing how much smaller he was, he'd have a big grin on his face, all the rest of the Rats were standin around grinnin, then out a nowhere he'd haul off and slug the guy right in the mouth, which was the signal for the rest of the Rats to commence kickin the shit out all the rest of the UCLA guys!!!! ................ What a strange exciting thrill it was to witness this odd dynamic type event between the lower and upper class, I was sort of a mascot, they let me hang out with them, they were my heroes!!!

Sold papers during the war years, got ten papers, sold em for a nickel apiece, gave the paper guy 3 cents, got ta keep 2 cents, which in those days bought a lot. I remember selling papers all around Ocean Park pier, near the dome theatre, I was little and close to the ground, lotsa puke on the ground, from the drunk servicemen, and lotsa nickels, dimes n quarters, that were dropped by drunk guys. Drunk soldiers n sailers, hookers on their arms, all over the place.

I remember when the first pizza place came to Ocean Park, we used ta stand there, a group of 4 or 5 little guys watching the guys toss the dough over their heads, this was a major event, once in a while when we could actually get 15 cents together we could actually buy a slice..

We kids used ta ride our bikes in Ocean Park, we'd go up on Lick Pier on weekends, there was the "Lick Pier Ballroom, at the end of the pier we'd watch the people go into dance............. balmy summer evenings,............ we'd ride in circles by the entrance we could hear the bands playing............... music wafting out the front doors, Tommy Dorsey, Charley Spivak, Harry James, Arty Shaw, we heard them all while we pedaled in never ending circles, bands playing, sound of waves breaking below the pier and the heavy scent of the ocean...............nice combo

Fridays we'd go fishin off Ocean Park pier, on our way home, we'd be walkin on the ocean front and all the old immigrant Jewish ladies would be sittin on the benches (which seem ta be the same benches that are there today!), they'd be waitin for us ta buy the fish, it was Friday and they'd buy our fish ta make "gefilte fish". All the streets in Venice had alleys, we kids always walked in the alleys, ya never know what u might find, when I walked in the alleys on Friday ya could hear the sound of the chopping cleavers banging against the wooden bowls, chopping up the fish for "gefilte fish", there was a distinct rhythm, that I can still hear in my head, ta this day.

My first sexual encounter, in the cab of the "Father & Sons Produce" truck a 1937 GMC stake bed truck used ta pick up produce, they'd park it in the back lot of the store, which was located on the ocean front, near Paloma Ave,, I was 13, so was she, she turned out ta be Kathy Daly, the daughter of "Pete Daly", "Pete Daly and the Chicagoins" a popular band of the times. Turned out she gave me the clap, went to the free clinic in Venice, the shot hurt like hell but if I had the chance l'd do it it all over again.

As soon as school let out for the summer we'd go down to the barber shop, which was located just down from Westminster Ave School, on Main Street, my elementary school, for our summer hair cuts 75 cents .I was probably around 7 or 8, from their accents the the barbers were these old guys that had probably migrated from the "Dust Bowls" Oklahoma or Arkansas, I always got the feeling they didn't much like Jews and I was a Jew, but anyway we'd get what was known as a "Butch Haircut", they basically took the electric trimmer and left about an inch of hair on yer head, this would pretty much last for the whole summer, I remember seeing the Marilyn Monroe nude calendar on the wall, with the red background, her arm behind her head, at that time it was just another calendar on the barbershop wall.

Summers consisted of getting up every morning, putting on ur trunks then attempting ta get out of the house ,to the beach, without having ta eat breakfast, but my Mom would usually trap me. Ya'd get ta the beach and all ur friends would be there, u didn't take a towel or food or anything, just ur trunks, you lived on the beach all summer long, ur house was only half a block away, if ya really needed anything.

You would go around, all over the beach, and ask adults for their pop bottles, at two cents deposit, ten twenty bottles a day would give u all the candy and pop u needed.

I remember the candy store, near Wavecrest, on the ocean front. Mrs. Smith, all she sold was candy, if ya had a nickel u could make urself sick It's where we first discovered "Double Bubble" bubble gum. When the war started all of a sudden there was no more bubble gum, when the war was over bubble gum was back, what a rush, the store is still there, they sell some bullshit meaningless junk,......like the rest of today's Venice, a few years ago I walked in , told them the candy store story, they stared at me blankly................

There weren't surf boards at that time, body surfing was the thing. We'd hang around on the sand, next to the Brooks Ave Life Guard Station, which at that time was a two story bldg, right on the beach, it was the sort of headquarters between Venice and Ocean Park. We knew all the lifegaurds, they were our heroes, they'd drive up and down the shoreline checkin things out, they had 1940 Willy's Jeep Pickups, with big ol balloon tires, low air pressure so they would move well thru the sand. Sometimes on a real good day one of the lifeguards might let u go with them while they patrolled the shoreline, man what a rush, got ta sit with the lifeguard patrolin in his truck.

We'd pretty much all go in the ocean all day long, we'd wait for sets of waves ta body surf on, I remember just sittin in the water till someone saw a set of waves comin and then someone would yell "OUTSIDE", which meant u'd swim like hell to get out ta where the big waves would be. It was really cool when it was u who saw the set and got to yell "OUTSIDE".We were just little kids and usually these big waves would kick our asses, but we managed once in a while ta get em just right and get the ride of our lives.

The really high tech method was to have swim fins, but who could afford swim fins? Occasionally one of the older guys would let u use his fins and then u really had the time of ur life.

You'd stay in till u were so cold ur lips were blue, then u n ur friends would come out of the water, u'd walk up shivering, to the hot sand, we didn't have towels, we just dropped to the hot sand and scooped it all around us, warming us up, we'd lay there giggling and talking till we warmed up. There was an outside shower by the life guard station where u could go ta get the sand outa ur crotch, but then u were cold again. So pretty much the drill was walking around with a sandy crotch most of the day till u went into the water again. We probably looked odd, this group of kids all walkin around, widelegged , sort of like we had a load in our pants.

I remember early one Sunday morning, during the war years, one of my friends came scrambling up my stairs, bangin on my door, "A plane crashed in the ocean, it's real close, we can swim out to it." Apparently a P-38 fighter plane had crash landed in the ocean. To us kids the possibility of being in close proximity to a P-38 fighter plane would be the ultimate experience..........we ran down to the beach, there it was floating, maybe 100 feet, right in front of the Brooks Ave Lifeguard Station...........we swam out, I remember looking into the cockpit and seeing the "Funnies" from the Sunday paper, it was strange.............we kids deduced that the reason the pilot crashed was because he was reading the "Funnies".

During the war years , where we lived, on Brooks Ave, we were directly under the flight path from the Santa Monica Airport, where Douglas Aircraft was located and every half hour an "A-20A Attack Bomber would fly over our house. Apparently they were coming off the assembly line every half hour and as they tested them they would fly right over our house, today I'm sure it would be a neighborhood problem, then for us little kids, it was a miraculous experience, TA see and hear a bomber that close................

I remember being around 7 or 8 years old, as I recall I sort of wandered down from my house on Brooks Ave. to the "Venice Canals," TA play, around a mile or so away, can u imagine a 7 year old being a mile from their home today!!!, any way I was playing by myself on the shore of one of the canals and I stepped into the water up to my ankles, when I stepped back out of the water something, probably a can or something had cut my foot across the top just behind my toes, and it was bleeding, I remember running home thru the alleys crying kinda freaked out...........I still have the scar on my foot, it's kinda cool, it's kinda like my " Venice Trophy Scar.".........

During the war years my Mom would save the bacon drippings in a can and I would take it to Safeway, on Windward Ave. n they'd give you twenty or thirty cents for it which bought a lot of candy!! We were told they used the fat for some kind of munitions component.......

In those days ur bicycle was ur life.......since kids weren't being abducted all over the place, like today, you could go anywhere u liked on ur bike. I remember having this overwhelming sense of pride that u could put me anywhere in Los Angeles and I could find my way back to Venice. In the summer, when school was out, u'd head out in the morning and ride all day long, just go wherever u wanted, as far as u wanted, you wouldn't come home till just about dark, what an adventure it was. We didn't have "Game Boys", or " Ipods" or TV and none of our toys had batteries........what a concept.

Our entertainment pretty much consisted of listening to the gigantic "Philco" radio, in the living room, we kids would be on the floor actually looking at the radio, our parents would be sitting in chairs, I find it interesting that we would all be looking at the radio. Fibber McGee and Molly, the Green Hornet, the Whistler........I'm sure no one remembers those programs, but for us at the time it was a rush........

We lived 30 or 40 feet from "Trolleyway", which, again, I believe is now Pacific Ave. Every 10 or 15 minutes the streetcars would come by and the whole house would shake.

We used to take what was called the "special" every morning, to and from Venice High School. It was three street cars joined together that would take us kids to and from school. The cars had these boxes underneath , on the outside of the streetcar, which contained dynamite caps.....if there was a problem ahead they would put the dynamite caps on the tracks, when the streetcar would run over them they would explode causing the driver to stop the train.........one of our big things was to steal the dynamite caps and put them on the tracks, they'd explode and the train would have TA stop.........we didn't have multiplexes, or malls but we managed to stay entertained. It just took a little more creativity and daring...........

We weren't much of a photo family.........I never owned a camera, till I was around 50, interesting I turned out TA have this photography gift, I discovered my gift when I was 50 years old, I was at a wedding and I looked thru the view finder of a friends camera, I remember saying to him ,"is the deal, that what I'm seeing thru this view finder will end up on a piece of paper if I push this button?"

He replied "that's the deal" i said "I'm seein some beautiful stuff" "it seems too easy, all I have TA do is push this button". Been pushin the button ever since!!!!

The gift was just waitin to be discovered, I haven't really learned anything in all these years, I already knew , but didn't know I knew till I picked up that camera... I can't teach it, can't explain. it, it just happens every time I shoot, I'm very grateful.............I"ve been here in Portland for fifteen years now , last weekend I shot my 1010th family.............. I luv this place, and I sooo love my life.....................I went back to visit L.A. a few years ago.............. it was too weird, it was like someone dosed me with acid...........it;s become a very strange place, I walked the ocean front, it was early on a weekday morning, It seemed TA smell from urine , wine., n garbage..............anyway I luved my early years there when it was just a sleepy little beach town.

 

 

It must have been around 1937 or 8, it was in Ocean Park....they used ta have these parades, on the ocean front , after the parade the floats would gather to viewed in a large area in front of what was then a sort of community center, a large hall............my Dad put me on a paper horse that was in the parade.

It must have been around 1937 or 8, it was in Ocean Park....they used ta have these parades, on the ocean front , after the parade the floats would gather to viewed in a large area in front of what was then a sort of community center, a large hall............my Dad put me on a paper horse that was in the parade.
Avid Brickman

 

 

 

Boardwalk Tram

Trams on Ocean Front Walk in the old, old days

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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